Eagles

5 winners and losers from Eagles' spring practices

5 winners and losers from Eagles' spring practices

The Eagles wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp with a short indoor practice on Thursday and are now on a break until training camp in late July. 

In total, there were 13 practices this spring, 10 OTAs and three minicamp days. Of them, reporters were allowed to watch seven of them. I was at all seven, but this piece comes with the caveat that I was allowed to watch just over half of the team’s total practices this spring. 

I think by now you’ve realized that Carson Wentz is a big winner from the spring. Even without his play on the field, he got a huge contract extension with over $100 million in guaranteed money. And on the field, he’s been really good too. He’s looked so good, Howie Roseman joked he felt more pressure to get the deal done with every practice. Wentz, sans knee brace, looks healthy, he looks strong, he looks like the guy who had a near-MVP season two years ago. Wentz has been showing off his arm strength, touch and mobility over the last few weeks. He could be in line for a big season. 

Anyway, here are five other winners and losers from the last few weeks: 

Winners 

Dallas Goedert 

The Eagles don’t even consider Goedert to be a backup as he enters Year 2. They have two starting tight ends and are going to play in 12 personnel quite a bit this season. We started to see it last year, but in these camps, Goedert is always using his big body to separate the ball from defender. He’s a clear red-zone threat and will likely be used in that role again. Four of his 33 catches last year (12 percent) went for touchdowns. Expect more of that this year.  

JJ Arcega-Whiteside 

As the fourth receiver, I’m not sure how much Arcega-Whiteside is going to play as a rookie, but he will deserve snaps in the red zone. We’ve seen incredible body control from the second-round rookie this spring. It seems like every practice, we’ve seen him leap up and make spectacular grabs, using his basketball background and elite body control. He has been very impressive. 

Boston Scott 

The stout running back has looked good in these practices and has drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles. That might be a little premature, but it’s easy to see why. Scott is a short back with some cutting ability and ability to catch out of the backfield. Really, being a punt returner might be his best chance of making the roster as the Eagles’ fourth running back. 

Avonte Maddox 

Without Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, Maddox has gotten all first-team reps this spring, along with Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. Honestly, all three have looked good, but I wanted to single out Maddox, who has thrived inside and outside. I found it interesting that at times this spring, he’s been playing outside in base and inside in nickel. I’m still not saying he absolutely has to be on the field as a starter, but he’s making a strong case. 

Andrew Sendejo 

Everyone was ready to cut Sendejo to save a compensatory pick and maybe that still happens, but I think he has a good shot of sticking around. He’s clearly the third safety and has consistently made plays all spring. I guess that’s to be expected for a well-rested 31-year-old veteran. When Malcolm Jenkins showed up for minicamp, it was Sendejo and not Tre Sullivan as the other starting safety in the absence of recovering Rodney McLeod. 

Losers 

Miles Sanders 

The rookie second-round running back participated in rookie minicamp but missed all 13 practices in OTAs and mandatory minicamp with a hamstring injury. It’s not the end of the world, but even Doug Pederson admitted “it hurts a little bit.” It’ll be up to Sanders to stay in the playbook and catch up quickly when training camp comes. 

Clayton Thorson

The rookie QB got off to a hot start, but really cooled off later this spring. There’s a lot going on for a rookie quarterback and maybe it just started to overwhelm him a little. He clearly has plenty of arm strength and his legs are better in person than on tape, but his accuracy hasn’t been great recently. All a part of the learning curve for a fifth-round rookie QB, I suppose.  

Cre'Von LeBlanc

It’s not that Strap hasn’t played well this spring; he actually has. But even without Darby and Mills, he still didn’t get any first-team reps. In the practices we’ve seen, all those reps went to Douglas, Jones and Maddox. LeBlanc played really well in the slot as a starter late last season, but he’s been relegated to the second team this spring. He’s the sixth CB on the roster.  

Shelton Gibson 

This time last year, Gibson had a tremendous offseason; haven’t seen that this year. I didn’t really notice Gibson too much all spring and then he got hurt, missing the last two days of camp with an undisclosed injury. Before the injury, guys like Arcega-Whiteside, Charles Johnson and Greg Ward were getting first-team reps over him. Gibson is a really good gunner on the punt team, but will that be enough to keep his roster spot? And, now, it looks like Mack Hollins will be back for training camp. 

Stefen Wisniewski

Wiz couldn’t find a starting job as a free agent so he returned as a backup here. Fine. But this spring, the Eagles have been using Halapoulivaati Vaitai as their first-team right guard in place of a recovering Brandon Brooks. And it seems like the Eagles are prepping Big V to play there this season if Brooks isn’t ready to go for the opener. Maybe this is just a case of the Eagles’ knowing what they have in Wiz, but it doesn’t seem great that he might not be the top backup guard.

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Why did Eagles draft JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf?

Why did Eagles draft JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf?

It’s hard not to compare J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and D.K. Metcalf.

They play the same position, they were taken seven spots apart in this year’s draft, and they’ll both be playing at the Linc on Sunday.

Through 10 games?

Metcalf has 35 catches for 595 yards, 23 first downs and five touchdowns.

Arcega-Whiteside has 3 catches for 43 yards, 1 first down and no touchdowns.

It’s still awfully early. But so far the Seahawks’ rookie has a monumental edge in production.

Doug Pederson said Wednesday that the Eagles liked Metcalf coming out of Mississippi. 

They just liked Arcega-Whiteside better. 

“We liked the player,” Pederson said. “He’s a big, powerful, physical guy, and he had some really good tape out there. And then we also liked J.J. We loved his size, his ability to play above the rim so to speak in the red zone and things like that. Similar players and made the decision with J.J. and we’ve been happy with that.”

The Eagles took JJAW with the 57th pick in this year’s draft, and the Seahawks selected Metcalf at No. 64. 

Metalf’s 595 receiving yards leads all NFL rookies, and Redskins rookie Terry McLaurin, a 3rd-round pick, is second with 566. 

The Eagles could have had either one. 

Metcalf and McLaurin are tied with the second-most receptions this year by rookies, three fewer than 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel, the 36th pick out of South Carolina. 

The only Seahawk in franchise history with more yards in his first 10 games of his career than Metcalf is Joey Galloway, a high 1st-round pick who had 650 in 1995.  

Metcalf has played 577 snaps. Arcega-Whiteside has played 195 but only 62 in the last six games.

His 29-yard reception against the Patriots Sunday was his first catch since Week 3.

“He did some nice things in the game, even though the ball necessarily didn’t come his way,” Pederson said. “He ran some really good routes and he played physical. The signs of him getting work in practice kind of paid off in the game and it will just give him more confidence moving forward.”

With Alshon Jeffery’s status still up in the air, there’s a chance JJAW will get more work against the Seahawks.

But it won’t be as much as Metcalf.

The only person who can really explain why the Eagles liked Arcega-Whiteside more than Metcalf is Howie Roseman, and he doesn’t do interviews during the season.

So Pederson sometimes has to answer questions about personnel that really aren’t his department.

“Young players sometimes it just takes time,” Pederson said. “It takes time to settle into their role, to understand their role and then to understand our game, to be able to play fast and to be able to play at a high level, and he showed some of that Sunday.”

Metcalf has been showing that every Sunday. 

It’s still way too early to write off Arcega-Whiteside or speculate who’s going to end up having the better career. There is certainly no reason to think JJAW won’t become a key part of this offense. 

But something is holding him back right now. Whether it’s coaching or just a poor evaluation by Roseman and his scouts, something is keeping him off the field. 

Meanwhile, Metcalf is producing at a high level as a 21-year-old rookie for one of the NFL’s best teams. 

And the way the Eagles’ wide receivers have been playing, it’s hard not to wonder how things would have gone if the Eagles had taken Metcalf instead.

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Eagles injury update: Nigel Bradham returning to practice field

Eagles injury update: Nigel Bradham returning to practice field

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, who has missed the last four games with an ankle injury, will return to the practice field today, according to head coach Doug Pederson. 

Bradham, 30, hasn’t played since the Vikings game on Oct. 13.

On Tuesday, Bradham wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for this Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. 

“Hopefully,” he said. “That’s the goal, but can’t force it.” 

Getting their top linebacker back would be a huge boost for the Eagles. Since Bradham has been out, Nate Gerry has assumed defensive play call responsibilities. While Jim Schwartz wouldn’t say the plan for when Bradham returns, it would stand to reason that Bradham would take back that job. 

“It’s been difficult (to miss games), not being out there to contribute with the team,” Bradham said. “It’s obviously tough, but I think our young guys are doing well. We just gotta keep motivating them and keep them going until the time I can come back.” 

Here are a few other injury updates from Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex: 

Lane Johnson: Johnson is still in the concussion protocol and the Eagles are preparing to play on Sunday without him. That means rookie Andre Dillard will spend the week getting first-team reps at right tackle. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who struggled after replacing Johnson on Sunday, will be the swing tackle. 

For the most part, Dillard has only ever played left tackle, so this will be an important week of practice for the first-round pick. 

Jordan Howard: The Eagles’ workhorse running back still hasn’t been cleared for contact and won’t be allowed to play until that happens. Howard suffered a stinger in the Bears game on Nov. 3 and even with the bye, missed the Patriots game on Sunday. He’ll be a limited participant in practice until he gets cleared, which means he’ll participate in individual drills. 

Pederson said Howard is improving. “It’s just a slow process right now,” he added.

If Howard can’t play this coming Sunday, it’s possible Jay Ajayi could find a role. Pederson emphasized on Wednesday, though, that the Eagles re-signed Ajayi to fill Darren Sproles’ roster spot and it had nothing to do with Howard, despite their similar playing styles. Still, Howard’s injury could create opportunity for Ajayi. 

Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery (ankle) is expected to be a limited participant in practice this week. He suffered his injury against the Bears and missed the Patriots game. 

Nelson Agholor: Agholor was not at Wednesday’s practice, presumably for injury reasons. Agholor banged his knee pretty hard on the ground in the end zone on that fourth down play in the fourth quarter Sunday. 

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